Keeping God at a Distance

Bible Reading: Exodus 19; 20; 23:20-33; 24
Listen to Ex. 19-20
Listen to Ex. 23-24

"When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, 'Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.' Moses said to the people, 'Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.' The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was..." (20:18-21).

"When Moses went and told the people all the Lord's words and laws, they responded with one voice, 'Everything the Lord has said we will do.'" (24:3)

"To the Israelites the glory of the Lord looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain" (24:17).

Are we afraid to get too close to God? Seeing the evidence of God's great power and holiness, do we "tremble with fear" and "stay at a distance"? Do we leave it up to our pastor to explore God's word, talk with God and determine what God wants to tell us, and then just come to church on Sunday morning, saying in our hearts, "Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us" (20:19)? Do we listen to the Sunday sermon and respond with one voice, "Everything the Lord has said we will do" (24:3) and then return to our jobs on Monday morning and forget what the Lord has said?

Why do we keep God at arm's length? Is it because we are afraid that our failures and weaknesses will be exposed? Do we think God will expect something too difficult or unpleasant? Are we afraid God will ask us to change? Are we unwilling to "wash our clothes" so that we can stand in God's presence with clean hearts (19:10-11)? Do we think our garments are too soiled and stained to ever be washed clean enough to be acceptable in God's sight? Is it because we’re disgusted with ourselves for not being more faithful, more trusting, more connected, more able to overcome our sins…? Do we simply lack the time to pursue intimacy with God? Are we too busy at church, at work or at home to sit down and read God's word for ourselves? Do we rely on the pastor to give us just enough spiritual food to last through the week (or longer)? Does our spiritual dieting increase our spiritual hunger, or has it reduced our appetite for the things of God?

Follow God’s voice out of your comfort zone to meet with God at the foot of the mountain. Be filled with wonder and reverence when you see God's power displayed in your midst. Let his awesome greatness be burned into your memory, giving you the faith to trust God and follow his teaching when you journey through the desert. Instead of hiding your face from God and extending your arms to keep him away, lift your hands and hearts to heaven and seek to know him more. Don’t shrink in fear at God's thunder, but approach the "thick darkness where God is" and listen to his voice as he resolves your doubts and leads you up the steep, rocky climb to the top of the mountain, where God's glory blazes.